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Hands-on with MushroomBallVR

Monkey Ball meets Mario in this wacky and colorful platformer.

Coming to Kickstarter today is perhaps the most colorful and wacky platformer we’ve seen for the Oculus Rift to date. Played from either a third or first person perspective, MushroomBallVR tasks the player with navigating multiple trap-filled levels, all the while controlling a small character inside a giant colored ball. In it’s current alpha release the controls are slippery and there’s plenty of room for gameplay improvements, but with bags of features and some charming graphics there’s potential here for a fine platforming game.

Load MushroomBallVR for the first time and a brief opening cut-scene sets the stage. TBH it’s probably not necessary, but it’s a nice touch albeit with some high-pitched narration that quickly starts to grate. Afterwards you’ll get to create and customize your very own character, with multiple options for hair style, clothing and face. Before long a brief tutorial explains the basics of the game, and it’s worth concentrating because there are multiple power-ups that are matched to each of the dpad directions. Left, for example, makes you briefly invincible, while right pauses time enabling you to dodge fireballs and enemies. The rest of the controls are simple to learn, with the left thumbstick used for movement, the right for rotation, A for jumping, Y for enabling the in-game HUD and X for switching between first and third-person views. The back bumpers can also be used for instantly rotating the camera left or right by a few degrees (a handy option for those who suffer from VR motion sickness).

After loading the single player campaign the game eases you in with a small and easy to navigate level. Set on a floating island with pools to navigate and a large gap that can only be jumped over while running at full speed, it’s a nice introductory level with a couple of friendly power-ups to collect (not all power-ups have a positive effect — some blur the screen or freeze your character in place). Later levels introduce enemies that can be squashed by jumping on their heads, castle-like structures to navigate and floating platforms to jump upon. It’s basic platforming gameplay, and it works surprisingly well on the Oculus Rift.

It’s clear that the developers behind MushroomBallVR have big things planned for the game. During our time with the alpha we noticed an in-game store where extra power-ups can be bought, the character creation tool is impressive and the levels are open enough to be tackled from multiple angles. Later levels set upon frozen glaciers and snow covered mountains also promise variation in setting and theme. However, there are plenty of areas where the game can be improved. Controlling the game is tricky, with over-sensitive camera and a simple physics engine that’s floaty and slippery. Music and audio can also gets repetitive. We also experienced a few seconds of motion sickness when the camera continued to rotate even though we weren’t touching any controller thumbsticks (lowering the camera rotation would instantly fix this problem).

With full support for the Oculus Rift, and a silky smooth framerate, MushroomBallVR is shaping up to be a promising VR platformer. You can download a demo of the game by visiting the official website, or back the game on Kickstarter where the team is hoping to raise $10,000 over the next 30 days. Those hoping to back the game and receive a full copy on completion need only to pledge $10, making this an affordable way to support the games developer.

MushroomBall VR Website